In Rivers Atiku did not just come and go
Ahead of 2019 polls, indication has emerged that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) might give its presidential ticket to either former Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar or former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
Atiku, who recently declared his intention to contest 2019 presidential election, has already begun building alliances and is seeking endorsement for the PDP presidential ticket.
Sources close to the PDP told The Guardian that the party’s leadership has been wooing General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who was Nigeria’s eighth military Head of State, based on the international community’s disposition towards him.
It was gathered that, if the former military ruler, who governed the country between 1998 and 1999, declines to accept the offer, then the party might give the ticket to Atiku, who is said to have bankrolled many All Progressives Congress’ (APC) lawmakers and some governors in 2015 polls.
Recently in Port Harcourt, Atiku announced he was seeking his party’s nomination for the presidency, when he visited Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, who has carved out a reputation as a power broker in the PDP.The Guardian gathered from sources within the party that the former vice president’s carefully planned visit, which was followed by other behind-the-scenes scheming, was to establish him as the likely 2019 PDP nominee.
A political pundit, Mr. Ross George, told The Guardian that Atiku and other presidential aspirants are of the belief that whosoever Wike’s legacy bloc supports in the national congress will automatically win PDP ticket for 2019 polls.He said: “He feels that Wike is PDP’s energy centre and clearly, his performance during the last PDP convention attested to this fact.
“Wike’s ability to coordinate things is what I think Atiku is banking on for his 2019 bid. I think the essence is that Wike is the epicentre of PDP politics right now, and the party’s national chairman also hails from Rivers State.”
In recognition that he might be up against powerful forces, Atiku, together with a close-knit group of trusted cohorts, spent days in Rivers State, negotiating with various groups in a bid to convince them to support his candidacy.
The Guardian gathered that there are already influential people in Wike’s camp, who think Atiku will bring value to the party, as he has the financial war chest and network to generate funds for prosecuting 2019 presidential election.
As a mark of prudent political gamesmanship, meant to mask his natural instincts, Wike told the former vice president that he had earlier received former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido, who had intimated him of his desire to seek PDP presidential ticket.
A source in the PDP, who pleaded anonymity, disclosed that Governor Wike’s pendulum would initially swing between Atiku and Lamido, because both of them have strong selling points. Presently, however, the odds seem to favour Atiku, who is said to have a strong grip on Adamawa State, as well as a strong appeal in Taraba, Bauchi, the northeast and other sections of the country.
It was also gathered that some governors are uncomfortable with Lamido’s closeness to former President Obasanjo. However, it was also observed that Lamido has appeal in the north among the conservatives.He said: “Lamido has the appeal of the North, meaning that he will do better there, but Atiku will do better nationally, in the sense that he has a strong appeal in the South. He is the biggest landlord in Rivers State. He has an Igbo wife, who will sell him in the southeast, as well as a wife from the southwest. In the South-south, he has business contacts and has created jobs. Atiku did not just come and go. He stayed three days consulting.
“I think Lamido comes in with the dimension of former president Olusegun Obasanjo cartel, which PDP may need. Obasanjo likes Lamido. There is the likelihood that, in order to form a coalition with the SDP, the PDP may decide to go for Lamido. If they have to negotiate for coalition; that will be the chance Lamido has. If they are to bring a unifying candidate, he is most likely to be the one.
“The bottom line is: I think Atiku has a stronger momentum, but I also think if the PDP must get into a coalition, that is where Lamido has a stronger hand. He has a strong conservative root. Obasanjo will never support Atiku.”Atiku had explained that he was vying for the presidency because the country was presently at a crossroads. He said he has never seen Nigeria so divided on ethnic and religious lines, which had been brought about by APC’s mismanagement.He said he has been facing political persecution from some powerful political forces, ever since he refused to support tenure elongation, while in office as vice president.
He said: “I am still going through tribulation, because up till now, some people are saying because I insisted on removal of tenure elongation in our constitution, they are still hunting for my head.
“But if I had supported the removal of tenure in our constitution, all those who became governors, National Assembly members, local governments chairmen and councilors from 2007, would not have been able to do so. And we would have continued with the same set of people, but that was not why we fought the military to return democracy. And that is why we should not forget, but continue to remember those that have made those supreme sacrifices.”